YSU expects two-QB scheme from SIU
Injury to starter Straub forces Salukis
to alter their offense against Penguins
By Brian Dzenis
Southern Illinois hosts Youngstown State today while at its lowest point.
The Salukis (4-5, 2-4 Missouri Valley Football Conference) have dropped three of their last four contests — with the lone win coming against winless Indiana State — to ruin any shot of making the playoffs.
To make matters worse, Southern Illinois lost starting quarterback Sam Straub to a broken hand during a 42-0 blowout against South Dakota two weeks ago. Straub is third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in touchdown passes with 20 to go with 1,886 passing yards. His replacement, Tanner Hearn, threw four picks against the Coyotes.
The Salukis tried a QB platoon the following week during a 36-28 loss to Missouri State. Hearn was paired with Matt DeSomer — who is listed as a safety on the SIU roster.
Hearn was better his second time out, going 13 of 22 for 180 yards, three TDs and a pick. DeSomer was used as a wildcat quarterback, throwing for 77 yards and rushing for 74 more. As odd as using two quarterbacks when one of them isn’t normally a quarterback sounds, the Salukis actually tried that against the Penguins (4-5, 2-4).
“They did that two years ago and it presents a challenge,” said Penguins coach Bo Pelini, referencing a 38-31 overtime loss to Southern Illinois in 2015.
“They have a wildcat offense, so to speak. They have one guy who runs their normal offense and then there’s the other guy. It’s like you’re preparing for two kinds of offenses.
“Both quarterbacks can do both things and you just have to be ready for a lot of different things. I’m sure they’ll try to formation us a lot and we have to be ready to adjust quickly.”
DeSomer played in the 2015 matchup at quarterback, but not in 2016. He’s had a career similar to YSU’s Ricky Davis. He came to Carbondale as a quarterback, but couldn’t catch a starting role, so he switched to wide receiver. This year, he took on defensive responsibilities at safety and has also returned kicks and played on special teams.
Whomever is under center has a lot to work with. Southern Illinois is the MVFC’s fourth-best in total offense — the best offense not in North or South Dakota. The Salukis spread the ball on the ground between backs Daquan Isom (491 yards, two TDs), D.J. Davis (283 yards, three TDs) and Walter Cameron (240 yards, two TDs). Davis gets more work in the passing game, with 31 catches for 323 yards and three scores.
Wideout James Darrell was just as many touchdown grabs as YSU’s entire receiving corps with seven to go with 707 yards as the Salukis’ top target. He’s complemented by Connor Iwema (571 yards, four TDs) and Raphael Leonard (488, four TDs).
Southern Illinois is middle of the pack when it comes to defense, not ranking lower than seventh or higher than fifth in any defensive category in the league.
Special teams play hasn’t been great. Kicker Matt Sotiropoulos has made just three field goals all season out of eight attempts. Three of those misses came in the red zone. The Salukis have the MVFC’s second-best punter in Lane Reazin, who averages 43.7 yards and has downed 11 punts inside the 20.